Recently whilst relinquishing the television remote to my wife I was forced to endure ‘The Devil wears Prada’. It was not a great film for a male in his late twenties, or rather, it was an appalling spectacle of cinematic vision, but bizarrely, one part of the film has stuck with me. As Anne Hathaway began her job with the dreaded Miranda Priestly, she argued that she was not into fashion. The response from her boss was to explain how the dowdy blue jumper her new assistant had chosen to wear that day, picked out from a low budget, low-end fashion shop, was in fact determined in its colour and style by cutting edge fashion trends from the previous year, and how whether she liked it or not, her life was dominated by fashion trends- just ones that were out of date.
This made me think of my parents, or other members of my family, who whilst I was growing up weren’t exactly “on trend”. Bad baseball caps, bum bags, socks and sandals, members of my family have broken every fashion faux pas known to young people growing up. But some of what they wore, which I would perhaps mock or scorn is now found in the latest retail shops, labelled as the ‘next big thing’ and the ‘style to be seen in this summer’. Whilst young people perfect this new image of plastic sunglasses, short shorts, patterned tees and high collars, older generations quietly chuckle to themselves at the irony of seeing their younger years be brought back to life in their children and grandchildren.
Some people live by trends (you only have to check out the latest haircuts and clothes of our students), whilst others attempt to avoid them at all cost, but whether we like it or not, our life moves through many different trends. It’s not all about fashion, but lifestyle choices, exercise regimes, foods we eat, the technology we ‘must have’- trends have a big impact, regardless of whether they’re products of the media or genuinely important phases in our history.
I watched a BBC article this week on two young individuals who were creating art through Google image searches on particular topics. Although interesting, those responsible said themselves that we will not necessarily be well remembered as a generation. They declared that people are “mentally obese” and that the distraction of the digital age “…has a big part to do with our generation’s story… we will not be a great generation… we are too self-absorbed, spending most of our time on frivolous things, like posting pictures of ourselves. We are cool kids, the cool generation”.
Ah yes- self-portrait pictures. Duck-face pouts, or ‘selfies’- there’s a trend if ever I saw one. Apps like snapchat and instagram have now made sharing pictures a vital part of social media life. Again, the BBC wrote an article on their rise to prominence earlier this month. Smartphones now contain a front-facing camera, which although could be used for Skype/Facetime conversations, shows the importance of the ‘selfie’ in the smartphone market. There were 23 million #selfie portraits on Instagram. 23 million! What will our children and grandchildren think of all these self-involved pictures of ourselves?!
But trends aren’t confined to just phones and fashion. Meteorologists met this week to discuss British weather trends, attempting to explain why six of the last seven British summers have be negatively affected by the weather. The potential warming of the Atlantic Ocean, the active phase of the sun- it’s unclear what’s causing the anomalies we’ve seen in recent years, but as for one day only temperatures push 30 degrees, it’s interesting to notice trends in our climate, and assess mankind’s role in these changes.
History itself reveals trends to us. The Industrial Revolution, the period of Empire in the Western World, the rise of all-conquering civilisations of Ancient times, the move towards more political extremes in the twentieth century- with the benefit of hindsight we can see all these “trends”. What will be next? Is the Middle-Eastern, and to some extent European, trend of protest here to stay? Will we see a fashion of further revolution? Will the ever growing financial burdens of global capitalism end the trend of capitalist dominance in favour of a new system of governance and economy? Will the rise of mainstream affluence in India, Asia and even Africa change the style of global diplomacy?
But it does make me wonder about our own mark on history as a generation and race of people- do we want to be remembered as people and generations who were “too self-absorbed… in frivolous things” to make a difference and create a legacy? Can you imagine teaching social history of the early 21st century to students a hundred years from now? What would actually be of interest, be worth teaching?
Trends come and go in all spheres of life and influence, be it clothing, technology, education, government, climates or economies. The biggest question is whether we want to follow such trends wholeheartedly, sceptically examine such movements before proceeding, or keep ourselves firmly remained in previous trends we feel most comfortable with.